Hi Straight People. Are you straight? Then this blog is for you. I’m straight too. So how did I end up here, on a gay man’s blog? Ah, the answer to that is long. The better question is how did you end up here?
Have you been catching the news now and then? Let’s be honest. Most straight people don’t really participate in the gay rights movement nor do they really keep track. Like most everyone, we can barely get through the day, what with worrying about kids, jobs, daycare, college, bosses, the economy, our bills, our health. It just goes on doesn’t it?
Chances are you haven’t really spent much time examining your feelings about gay people. If you don’t know someone who is gay, why would you? Except for Ellen, who do you know that is gay?
In the debate on equal rights for gays, both sides have been vocal. Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, have poured a lot of money into getting out their message that our families will somehow be endangered by treating gay people as if they were “normal.”
I’ve spent my whole life being around mostly straight people. So I know that many straight people don’t know anyone who is gay. I know that they would not know what to say to a gay person. I know they have problems seeing past being gay. Their first thought is about sex. We have trouble picturing being attracted to the same gender, as it isn’t what we feel. When we (us straight folks) are attracted to someone, it can come with feelings that range from infatuation, falling in love, combined with sexual attraction, or just plain old lust to the point where we engage in one night stands or even hire prostitutes. Anyone over the age of 25 has figured out that love and sex aren’t necessarily the same thing.
But back to gay people. POP! That image of what do they do in the bedroom comes into our heads. Many of us have been taught by our religions, our families, and our society that homosexuality is against God’s law, they are all promiscuous, worse they are pedophiles. The men are effeminate and weak; the women are masculine and homely. The men all become flamboyant hair dressers or fashion designers, the women become….. hmm, I don’t know what.
There’s another group of straight people. You work with someone, they go to your church, or they are on your soccer team. You become friends, you enjoy their company and one day you ask that age old innocent question. If it’s a male, you ask “Do you have a girlfriend?” and vice versa for a woman. If that person has trust in you, this could be the moment they have chosen to come out to you.
Then there’s the last but not least group of straight people. It’s your child, your sibling or even a parent.
Suddenly, this person is a stranger. Everything you know about them comes into question. If it is your child, you may grieve and think about all the things that you will miss out on. Grandchildren. A daughter-in-law to give you the daughter you never had. You’ll be afraid to tell anyone. If this is a friend, depending on your pre-existing feelings about gay people, your reaction can range from so what, to confusion, to awkwardness, to what do I do now, to feelings of repulsion or even threatened. If you are the same gender, you might think this person will hit on you. Somehow, there is this notion that gay people are sexually attracted to everyone they meet that is the same gender. Because when a person is gay, thinking about sex is the only thing that goes on in their brain, right? Wrong. Just like you and me, they won’t be attracted to everyone. They know it’s a lost cause to think about being involved with someone who is straight. Not to burst your bubble, but I’m guessing they aren’t interested in you in “that way”.
All straight people go through a journey of realizations and expanding their comfort level when getting to know someone who is gay. I know I did. It can be difficult to resist asking certain questions, wondering about things that you have no firsthand knowledge of. Unless you are very close friends, I don’t recommend prying. Stick to the same subjects that you would with your straight friends. Show the person respect and acknowledge if you feel awkward. “I’ve never met anyone who is gay but I like you. So, if I say or do something offensive or that is too personal, I hope you will let me know.” Avoid stereotypes. After meeting probably fifty people who are gay, I can tell that they have only one thing in common. Being gay.
I was very lucky. My best friend in high school was a gay man. When he came out several years later, we were such good friends that I was very comfortable asking questions. (Everyone who hears this story assumes that it is a story of unrequited love. Nope. We really were just friends. And when my husband to be came along, the three of us were good friends.) I’m grateful not only for his friendship but also the enlightenment about gay people. I peeled back the layers of assumptions about gay people thanks to him. Back in the 70s, no one thought about gay marriage. I think even gay people didn’t think about it. They were too worried about losing their jobs and families.
I went from thinking that gay people should not have children, and I would say it was because their children would be bullied. But the truth is, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea. Then, when I met gay parents, I realized that gay people could be just as good at parenting as straight people.
I went from thinking that “it’s better just to be quiet about being gay” and I would say it was because it was so easy to be a target for bullying, hate and violence but really I don’t like conflict and I knew I could not be that brave if I were gay. Then as I met more people who were gay, I learned that the more gay people who came out, the better it was for everyone, gay or straight.
I went from thinking, well having gay friends is fine but I won’t tell my children they are gay. I said it was because children are too young to understand and why did they need to know, but really it was because I had no clue how to explain it. Sex was still front and center. Not love. Then along came a coworker that became a good friend and I decided to explain to my four year old son at the time that she loved a girl, not a boy and that was ok. He didn’t flinch. To this day, at the age of twenty, he knows her and her partner, and loves them both.
I can remember a time when I would say “I believe that gay people should be treated like everyone else but I’m not gay.” I wanted people to know that I wasn’t gay. I wore “I’m not gay” like a badge when I spoke up for gay rights. Why? I couldn’t bear the thought of experiencing the kind of marginalization, stereotyping, hate or fear that gay people faced. As time moved on, that fell away. It happened so gradually that I don’t really know when it went away. This past year I joined the LGBT group at our church. We meet monthly for a potluck and a discussion. My husband doesn’t go with me. It wasn’t until the last meeting before our summer break that I realized many people assumed that I was a lesbian. Unless I brought up my husband for a reason that was relevant to the conversation, it never occurred to me to explain. So there I was, in the reverse situation that most gay people face. Our new minister and his partner came to the last potluck. I am sure that they think I am a lesbian but that didn’t occur to me until I got home. And until it comes up naturally in conversation, I’m just going to leave it that way. We straight people assume everyone is straight. And we’re right probably 90% of the time.
And in just this last year, I went from “I don’t care what it’s called, just give same sex couples all the rights of marriage” to realizing that a separate system creates separate classes of people. Civil unions and domestic partnerships sound like corporations, not a committed loving relationship. Not to mention that if records are public, it becomes very easy to identify gay couples and possibly make them the target of hate crimes. And then there’s the crazy bureaucratic nightmare of how to write something as boring as a tax form.
I am a person who has many friends, but few very close friends. I’m an introvert. When I assessed the most important friendships in my life, there were eight. Four of those were gay, lesbian or transgender. They became my friends not because of their sexual orientation but for the individuals that they are. Two were Catholic, one was Lutheran, and one was an atheist. Two were scientists, one an artist, one a hotel clerk. One was a Republican, three were Democrats. Three are dog people, one is a cat person. All are smart, compassionate, witty, hard working and unique.
It can take time to become familiar with things that we know nothing about. If you realize that LGBT people are human, just like you, you’ll find yourself leaving judgment and negativity behind. People don’t choose to be straight, gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender. Too much scientific research has proven that. Who we are comes naturally to all of us. No one would choose a life where they could be hated or killed, where they don’t have civil rights.
As humans, don’t we all deserve the same rights? Straight couples receive approximately 1138 Federal rights when they are married. LGBT people in domestic partnerships or civil unions receive no Federal rights and sometimes only a fraction of the states’ rights. It’s time for full equality for all Americans.
If you could not marry the person that you love, how would you feel? Yea, I thought so. So don’t make anyone else feel that way. It’s un-American.
Geekgirl is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a
lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles.